Dr. Susan Lark is author and women’s health specialist who combines clinical nutrition with preventive medicine and complementary therapies to enhance the well-being of women. A graduate of Northwestern University Medical School, she has served on the clinical faculty of Stanford University Medical School, and taught in their Division of Family and Community Medicine. She has written 13 best-selling books, the most recent, Hormone Revolution, and is a lecturer and product developer. Her products are available at www.drlark.com.
In the September 2011 Women’s Wellness Today health letter produced by Dr. Lark (subscription based, 877-437-5275), she discusses some unknown causes of incontinence and what can be done naturally without drug or surgical mesh intervention.
Undoing Urinary Incontinence
If you are reading this website you already understand urinary incontinence. According to Dr. Lark, Stress Incontinence will tend to resolve on its own after menopause while Urge Incontinence is an overactive bladder that occurs when bladder muscles contract automatically increasing an urge to urinate even if your bladder is not full.
Causes of the latter may include hormone imbalances, bladder inflammation, pain, and even depression and diet. This type of incontinence is most common in women after they are in menopause.
Kegel (rhymes with bagel) exercises strengthen the pelvic area and everyone has heard about them, but it’s important to know whether or not you are doing them right. Dr. Lark suggests scheduling at least one visit with a health care provider who specializes in female urinary incontinence to understand the four components to kegels.
Biofeedback and Sacral Neuromodulation
Biofeedback can help as can sacral neuromodulation, using an electrical pulse to reset and calm the bladder’s hypersensitized nerves. See the Women’s Wellness Today newsletter or check out http://www.uroplasty.com/ to find a doctor who offers this procedure. The treatment was effective 12 months afterward in 90 percent of responders, (see January 2010 Journal of Urology). See the Abstract here.
Kegels are made even more effective with the addition of vaginal weights which are inserted and worn up to 20 minutes a day. The muscles sense their presence and hold them in. Check out Aquaflex Vaginal Cones at www.vaginal-cones.com.
Kegels must be repeatedly done to work or symptoms will return. Other natural treatments include:
- Alkalinize – Avoid a system that becomes too acidic which irritates the bladder making it hypersensitive to incontinence. Returning the body pH by adding a glass of purified water and ½ teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) every day. Dr. Lark’s book, Eat Papayas Naked (Amazon here) also has ideas on great food and recipes that tend to be alkaline.
- Medications? – Some medications can promote incontinence. Your doctor or pharmacist should have this information and may also know alternatives. Drugs known to promote incontinence are antidepressants (Elavil, Effexor); antihistamines such as Benadryl; antipsychotics (Haldol); calcium channel blockers (Calan and Procardia). More information on this in the book, “20 Common Problems in Women’s Health Care” by Mindy Smith and Leslie Shrimp. Amazon order here.
- Lose Weight – Increased body fat is a risk factor for stress and urge incontinence. Check out a BMI in the normal range of 18.5 to 24.9 but avoid a BMI that increases by even five points. An overweight woman can lose her incontinence by half if she loses 5 percent of her body weight. Check out BMI calculation here.
- Food Triggers – Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine irritate the bladder and increase urine output.
- Herbal Supplements – Include Varuna, an Ayurvedic herb, also known as three-leaf caper or Crataeva nurvala, a bark which grows along streams in India and can soothe bladder pain and neurogenically normalize bladder hypersensitivity. Dr. Lark sells a bladder support product called Confident Control (see www.Drlark.com)
- Pumpkin Seed Extract – Cucurbita pepo, is a Native American remedy and is also useful for men with an enlarged prostate. Powerful in the treatment of hypersensitive bladder, it too is included in Confident Control and the pumpkin seed extract can be found in Enzymatic Therapy’s Better Bladder for Women (www.enzymatictherapy.com).
- Magnesium – The supplement can cut down on severity of urge incontinence, reduce the number of urinations and decrease nighttime urination. The January 2003 OB/GYN News study showed improvement with 350 mg of magnesium hydroxide orally (one teaspoon of Milk of Magnesia) twice daily. Here is the article from Life & Health Library. Dr. Lark recommends that dose but check with your doctor.
- Shilajit – Ayurvedic compound that is known to restore normal bladder function. Also known as mineral pitch, it is rich with minerals and fulvic acid, a compound found in plant matter. Fulvic acid has restorative functions including toning the muscles of the urinary tract. Dr. Lark recommends a source carried by Tattva’s Herbs Organics (www.tattvasherbs.com ) because it comes from the Altai Mountains of Asia. One tablet twice daily. #